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Creating an effective YouTube Shorts ad

YouTube Shorts icon on faded purple background

Late last year I settled down on my sofa to catch up on cycling highlights through the YouTube app on my TV. When I opened the app though, another video caught my eye: an old interview with Daniel Day-Lewis that I could see was only 60 seconds long. “I’ll just watch this one video and then get to the cycling”, I thought. Ten minutes later, and I was being sucked deeper and deeper into a YouTube Shorts rabbit hole.

It turns out I'm not alone in watching Shorts on TV. 9.3% of all TV viewership in the US comes from YouTube (according to Nielsen) - more than any other streaming app - and it’s fair to assume a decent chunk of that will be from Shorts. (In some of the campaigns we’ve run, the majority of Shorts viewership has come from TVs, although these are outliers and most of the time mobiles and tablets is where Shorts viewership is taking place.) 

YouTube has done a great job of creating a platform that hosts all types of content, for all types of people, available on all devices. From kids movies on tablets, to 20 second memes in 4k widescreen. YouTube is a one stop shop for everyone. 

Despite so many people watching Shorts it still remains an underserved ad format. Many brands haven’t used it and even fewer have mastered it. At Precise TV, we’ve been running Shorts ads for eight months. We received early alpha access, which we talked about in this article. Over that time, we’ve seen what works well, and what works less well. In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes a great Shorts ad.


Of course the biggest difference between a Shorts ad and a traditional pre-roll advert on YouTube is the “vertical” format. Advertisers should think about how their creative concept can work for both horizontal and vertical formats. YouTube even provides a guide on how to use “vertical safe zones”. Having the creative fit the format has an easy way to ensure it has maximum impact. In fact, Google says that in some cases having a vertical-specific video increases results in between 10 to 20% more conversions, compared to just having horizontal videos (source). 

Loosen the brand guidelines

Users are not expecting the IMAX quality, high-brow content when watching Shorts. Instead, videos are more rough and ready but with plenty of laid back character, and insouciant humor. Creating highly-produced videos with an air of seriousness can even feel inauthentic to the format. Loosen up, be vulnerable, break the fourth wall, go full delulu. Your audience is expecting it. If you want a masterclass in mind-bendingly simple nonchalance in a video, look no further than this Short from Adult Swim, which was used to promote the latest season of Rick and Morty. “These are the ads I want to see”, reads one comment with 1,200 likes…

Use influencer content

Content from influencers and UGC is dominating short form video. Scroll through Shorts and you can almost guarantee that the majority of videos in your feed will be UGC or from influencers. Influencers know what they are doing. Take this Shorts ad from Domino’s with food creators Zach & Tee. This is so inline with the content the pair usually create that when it was served to me, it took a second to realize it was an ad. 

Now that you have an idea of what it takes to create an impactful Shorts ad, you might be wondering how it fits in with your overall YouTube strategy. Well, you’re in luck, as that’s what we’ll be talking about in our next article. Stay tuned…

Topics: youtube, Google, advertising, contextual targeting, youtube shorts